Buffalo Downs Rutgers 82-71 – Bull Run

Buffalo Downs Rutgers 82-71 - Bull Run
UB women defeat Rutgers in first round of NCAA Tournament
STORRS, CT — A battle of wills and contrasting styles ended with Buffalo moving onto the second round, 82-71.

The game promised drama regardless of the outcome. Program-changing guard Cierra Dillard is fighting for her collegiate career’s life with every game, while the ledger for Rutgers C. Vivian Stringer, missing while Tim Eatman fills in on an interim basis, remains open for now as well, the team declaring their intentions to play on Stringer’s behalf.

One of the things that we talk about as African American coaches is that we all are good leaders, and so once we get an opportunity to lead, then people get a chance to see that leadership, Eatman said. So I think this step that were making in the right direction — and the first part is about interviewing. You cant get a job unless youre interviewing for a job. So as long as people of color get an opportunity to interview, then administrators can see that they have an opportunity to lead. And once we get more interviews, and once you get that opportunity, then I think youll see more people of color. But at the end of the day, I think were making tremendous progress.

The leading scorer for the Bulls doesn’t so much play in a game as she takes the game in her hands, feels for its opportunities, squeezes it and takes it for her own. So it was on Friday, her bullying through the lane between and into defenders, the quick decisions, the shot before a defender can get a hand up.

We got together, (South Carolina coach) Dawn Staley, myself and a few others, five of us, and we just had a dialogue about, What can we do? How can we help? How can we serve? All women, in general, but African-American women in particular, Legette-Jack said. You dont see us reappear. If we do reappear, we dont go up, thats for sure. We go down into a different level. And now, I think African American women and men know that they have a place to come and talk and listen and be heard and listened to, and theres somebody thats going to fight with them and for them. And thats the beauty of the day, when it continues on and it keeps moving forward.

Rutgers managed to slow her down a bit in the third quarter after Dillard put up 13 first-half points, but even when Hanna Hall took over primary ball handling duties for a time — likely to keep Dillard fresh for the fourth quarter — Dillard was central to everything Buffalo did, constantly bringing her teammates into mini-huddles, leading the team in every way possible.

Im just so proud, not only as a player, but as an African American woman, playing in front of two African American coaches, Dillard said. I mean, I cant say enough about that. You look up to that when youre young. I see Coach Jack and I want to be just like her. I see Coach Stringer and I want to be just like her. Thats just the type of stuff you play for. And when you see people like that, in that position, you know theres a chance. You know you have a hope.

UBs Cierra Dillard proud to play before African American coaches in NCAA Tournament

Out of a timeout, late fourth, Buffalo up 72-69, Dillard stole the ball, navigated around a Rutgers defender at the sideline 60 feet from the basket, drove the lane, and found Summer Hemphill, who finished with a game-high 23 points, on a perfect bounce pass for a layup. With less than two minutes to go, Rutgers on a fast break, it was Dillard who stepped into a passing lane and turned them over.

Dillard is the proverbial playmaker, in every way, and most when it matters. Hall grabbed a rebound in the final seconds, drew the foul, looked to Dillard, who cheered her. “Let’s go! Let’s go!”, she yelled at her teammate in joy. When it was over, Dillard grabbed the ball and embraced it.

It’s the 55. You may have heard of it. Tim Eatman utilizes it all the time now, in honor of Stringer, sure, but also because the Scarlet Knights have length, quickness and numbers to throw at opponents. And you can see it up close, the Bulls breathing hard by the second quarter, facing something that is normal for Rutgers and new for virtually any opponent they’ll get in the NCAA Tournament.

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It is an equalizer, and let’s just say C. Vivian Stringer didn’t win over 1,000 games by accident. Not only was Rutgers difficult to contain with the press, Zippy Broughton worked extremely hard to slow down and bother Dillard, and it was clear her length gave Dillard problems at times. Broughton, along with incoming freshman Maori Davenport, provide a significant base of young talent for the program going forward.

Rutgers dealt with its share of distractions in recent weeks. C. Vivian Stringer, the teams legendary coach, decided to step away from the program three weeks ago due to health reasons, leaving Timothy Eatman in charge. Two key players — forward Caitlin Jenkins and guard Ciani Cryor — were dismissed for what the program announced as violations of team policy. And in the days leading up to their first NCAA Tournament affair, the Scarlet Knights had some more bad news.

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UB men & women advance in NCAA tournament

Rutgers looked like it had found a way to wear down the Buffalo offense, forcing its 16th turnover midway through the third ahead of taking a 52-43 lead. But Dillard responded, weaving around and through the defense for a scooped layup to end Buffalo’s drought, and her teammates followed suit, a pair of threes by Hanna Hall — the latter a lovely stepover to find a seam in the Rutgers halfcourt defense — to put the Bulls ahead, 56-54.

Playing without their Hall of Fame coach and missing both their top 3-point shooter for the final 35 minutes (because of injury) and a reserve who quit the team on the eve of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 7-seeded Scarlet Knights were ousted from the first round by No. 10-seed Buffalo, which rallied for an 82-71 win on Friday evening at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.

Rutgers throws waves of players at its opponents. But Buffalo found a way to get up when plenty of Rutgers opponents have checked out for good. This run, which led into a fourth quarter featuring big plays at both ends out of halfcourt sets, became a punch/counterpunch game precisely because Buffalo didn’t let it turn into a double-digit game in the third, and put Buffalo in position to make plays and win it late.

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Sierra Calhoun, who averaged 4.0 points in 24 games after arriving as a grad-transfer from Big Ten-rival Ohio State, left the team earlier this week, according to Eatman, who said in a school-released statement: Sierra informed our staff that she has decided to leave the team in order to prepare for the next chapter in her life.

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Redshirt senior forward Stasha Carey was a bright spot for Rutgers, posting a double-double with a team-high 20 points on 9-for-13 shooting and 11 rebounds. Redshirt sophomore guard Arella Guirantes added 14 points and four assists while sophomore guard-forward Tekia Mack contributed 10 points in 29 minutes off the bench.

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Share Share Buffalo Downs Rutgers 82-71 tweet share Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports While the Buffalo Mens team was focused on not letting a lower seed knock them out the Womens team were playing in Storrs as 10 seed taking on Rutgers, a seven.

Not again, UB mens and womens second-round games will overlap

STORRS, Conn. — Summer Hemphill hadnt even received the pass and point guard Hanna Hall was already screaming, Shoot the ball!

But Cierra Dillard, Hannah Hall, and Courtney WIlkins keyed up a Buffalo Run. From there, through most of the 4th, the two teams battled back and fourth but the UB defense turned into brick wall at the 4:55 mark, only allowing one Rugters basket the rest of the game.

So was University at Buffalo womens basketball coach Felisha Legette-Jack, and seemingly the entire bench.

Despite being an underdog the women were going neck and neck with the Scarlet Knights until early in the second half. A series of sloppy plays let Rutgers turn a one point lead into a nine point lead and they hoped to run away from the Bulls.

So Im like, Hemphill paused, reenacting a sigh. Ive got to take this shot. So I took it and it went in and I shot it with confidence.

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That 3-pointer, Hemphills third on five attempts from long range this season, gave Buffalo a bit of breathing room early in the fourth quarter of its 82-71 victory over Rutgers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Gampel Pavilion. And it steeled the junior forward for a remarkable late-game performance.

It was a disappointing end to a season that began with a celebration when Stringer became the fifth Division I womens coach to win 1,000 game. More than 100 of her players, past and present, were there that night. Two of Stringers fellow basketball Hall of Famers, David Robinson and Charles Barkley, recorded tributes to her, the first African-American coach to reach the 1,000-win milestone. So did Billie Jean King, Whoopi Goldberg and Hillary Clinton.

Hemphill scored 12 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, including a layup and free throw to complete a three-point play that gave No. 10-seeded UB a 72-69 edge with 4½ minutes to play. The Bulls (24-9) led the No. 7-seeded Scarlet Knights (22-10) the rest of the way, advancing to the Round of 32 for the second time in as many seasons.

It was an extraordinary moment, even for a coach who has reached the Final Four with three different programs, Rutgers, Iowa and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Her last trip to the Final Four, when Rutgers lost in the 2007 final, was marred by racist and sexist comments directed at her team by the radio host Don Imus. Stringer got more attention when she stood up for her players than the team had for its success.

Shes got the highest percentage on the team in 3-pointers, senior guard Cierra Dillard laughed. We want her to shoot all the time!

Perhaps on Friday the upheaval finally caught up with the Scarlet Knights, who finished 22-10. In a span of five days at the end of February, two of Rutgerss best players were kicked off the team for a violation of team rules; Rutgers lost four of five games; Stringer took the medical leave of absence; and Eatman took over.

Dillard contributed 20 points, four rebounds, six assists and four steals. Hemphill, who hit 9 of 14 shots, added a team-high seven rebounds. Sophomore point guard Hanna Hall had 12 points and a career-high eight assists, and senior guard Autumn Jones also scored 12 points as UB became the first womens program in Mid-American Conference history to win a game in the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years.

For me, Coach Stringer is just a really strong, powerful woman, and its hard to not be moved by her when she talks to you, or when she says she has a plan for you, guard Arella Guirantes said Thursday. I know a lot of my teammates feel the same way, and they feel as though shes a mother figure to them.

Buffalo, which advanced to the Sweet 16 last season, will face perennial powerhouse and second-seeded UConn, a 110-61 winner against No. 15-seeded Towson, in the second round Sunday at a time to be determined.

Even at the age shes at now, its just crazy how much she outworks all the other coaches, and it just shows the love that she has for the game, Guirantes said. And as a player, you want your coach to have that love for the game just as much as you, and a person that just wants the best for you.

Buffalo was making the programs second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament and third in four seasons. But Dillard was the only starter who returned from last years team, which graduated five seniors.

I wanted the seniors to understand they started their journey with Coach and theyre not ending it without her, he said. I want them to understand that shes still here with them in spirit. They may not see her face, but everything she instilled in them is here.

Im so fortunate to have a bunch of fighters who understand what theyre fighting for, Legette-Jack said. We just beat somebody today — I have such respect for Rutgers and their program and their history and their conference and all the things that they stand for. But today they ran into somebody, a team, that are fighters. Fighters for their stories. Fighters for their sisters. Fighters for something bigger than basketball.

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The Scarlet Knights led by two points after three quarters, but were outscored 23-10 in the fourth. They had outscored their previous four opponents, 84-41, in the fourth quarter.

I think we made some mistakes because we wanted it so bad, said Rutgers acting head coach Timothy Eatman, filling in for C. Vivian Stringer, who has been on medical leave since mid-February. That calmness we needed in the moment we needed, we didnt have it. I think I needed to do a better job with them, calming them down, making sure we were settled when we needed to be.

UB hit 12 of 23 3-point attempts, went 16 of 19 from the free throw line and out-rebounded Rutgers 39-33, precisely what it needed to upend the Scarlet Knights, which had a size advantage and one of the top defenses in the Big Ten.

The Bulls shot 50 percent overall and 54.5 percent in the fourth quarter, when they also hit 9 of 11 free throws.

Rutgers shot 42.6 percent overall and just 19 percent (4 of 21) from 3-point range. The Scarlet Knights were also just 9 of 15 from the line.

Buffalo led by as many as eight points in the first half, when Dillard hit a 3 for a 34-26 lead with eight minutes remaining in the second quarter.

But Rutgers responded with a 14-2 run over the next six minutes. Tekia Mack hit consecutive layups to tie the score and give the Scarlet Knights a 38-36 lead. UB went without a field goal for 5½ minutes until Hall drilled a 3 at the buzzer to trim Rutgers advantage to 43-41 at halftime.

Autumn Jones similarly banked in a 3 at the buzzer to end the first quarter, giving the Bulls an early 27-21 lead.

This is the first time for me making the tournament and what I took away from this is you have got to fight for 40 minutes, Mack said. You either go down punching and kicking, or you lay down for the next team. We fought for as long as we could but things happen. Its March.

Rutgers opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run, pushing its lead to 52-43, but the Bulls stormed right back, rattling off 10 consecutive points. Hemphills layup gave UB a 53-52 lead with 4:35 remaining in the third.

After the teams traded the lead, Rutgers answered with a 7-0 run until Jones hit a 3 with 10 seconds remaining to pull Buffalo within 61-59 heading into the fourth quarter.

We were going to have to continue to weather the storm, Legette-Jack said. We felt like we were in better condition. Honestly. We said, When you break the press, run, just run. I dont care if its an airball. Just run. By the fourth quarter — theyre better at the fourth quarter — so if we run them in the first three quarters, by the fourth quarter they may not have legs. And I think it held true.


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